It may not be a huge trip from Queenstown to Wellington but it is absolutely packed full of awesome things to do. Starting off in the adventure capital of the world, get your thrills and spills in before heading up the east coast of the South Island where you can explore the regeneration in Christchurch following the earthquakes, swim with dolphins in Kaikoura, sample some delicious wine in the Marlborough region before catching the Interislander across to the North Island. 4 days are going to fly by!
- Route map with key locations
- Recommended vehicle for this trip
- Trip itinerary
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1Queenstown and around
So, you’ve arrived in the adventure capital of the world with only 4 days to get yourself up to Wellington in the North Island.
Arriving in Queenstown with only 1 day to explore can be quite daunting as there’s so much to do whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or you’re looking for a relaxing first day but fear not – we have pulled together our top three things to do for adventure and relaxation (we know, you can thank us when you drop the car off!) Anyway, enough of this – let’s GO!
Adrenaline fuelled adventure
For those who have headed to Queenstown for adrenaline fuelled adventure, these are our highlights of things to do in a day:
1) AJ Hackett Nevis Bungy – Australasia’s highest bungy at 134m, this is not for the feint hearted – 8.5 seconds of freefall will have you screaming like a lunatic!
2) Skippers Canyon Jet – reaching speeds of up to 85mph this ride up the tight Shotover Canyon
is sure to get your pulse racing. The 360 degree spins will get you closer to the wall than you feel comfortable with! Skippers Canyon Jet is also a GO Play partner. Bonus!
3) Coronet Peak ski resort (in season) – fantastic resort for pros and beginners alike, Coronet Peak is a GO Rentals favourite in the winter where lots of fun can be had on and off the slopes.
Use your GO Play card here
Something a bit more…relaxing
We know that jumping off mountains and flipping jet boats is not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s more to Queenstown than adrenaline fuelled adventure. Here are our top three things for the more laid back traveller:
1) Ben Lommond – a 4 hour walk giving you some awesome views of Queenstown, the lake and surrounding mountains.
2) Skyline gondola – take the gondola up Bob’s Peak and enjoy some award winning cuisine and some amazing views. If you want to get down a bit quicker, the luge is a lot of fun!
3) Arrowtown (22.1km – 22mins) – head out in your new GO Rentals hire car and check out this small town which was at the heart of the NZ gold rush. There are lots of nice shops, bars and places to eat as well as relaxing walks.
At the end of a busy day, Queenstown is a great place to unwind with a huge range of bars to suit everyone. Depending on the time of year, you’ll either be welcomed in to a roaring fire or sit out enjoying the sun setting over Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown is a place where you can easily get lost for a week or two. If you have more time or you want more inspiration, check out our Queenstown guide.
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2Queenstown to Christchurch (483km – 6 hour 37 mins)
After a busy day of adventure and action in and around Queenstown, it’s time to hit the road and
head north to Christchurch. There’s plenty to see and do along the way making this journey a day
out in itself.
Mt John Observatory/Lake Tekapo (256km – 3 hours 26 mins from Queenstown)
Stargazers all over the world know Mt John and Lake Tekapo, in the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, as one of the absolute best places to look at the stars (and even catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights – Aurora Australis).
Lake Tekapo is also famous for its unique turquoise colour, as well as its beautiful starry nights – a perfect spot for you romantics out there as Lake Tekapo has been the scene of many a wooing! If you can park here for the night, you’ll not regret it. Mt John, just above the Tekapo township, is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world, home to 6 telescopes, including New Zealand’s biggest telescope, which can observe 50 million stars each clear night (yes, you read that right).
Akaroa (280km – 4 hours 10 mins from Lake Tekapo)
Located 75km south of Christchurch and known by locals as the ‘Riviera of Canterbury’, Akaroa is a great stop off as you head down towards Queenstown and beyond. This village is located on Banks Peninsula within a harbour of the same name and is considered “the most French town” in New Zealand, as it was the only French settlement in the country.
Spend some time exploring the small town and then head to the harbour for the best fish and chips meal of your life (at least that’s Akaroa’s claim so you be the judge and let us know). If you didn’t have the chance to head up to Kaikoura, GO Play partner Black Cat Cruises offer an amazing opportunity to swim with the rare Hector’s dolphins which are only found in these waters. With a 10% discount, you’d be a fool not to!
Use your GO Play card here
Lyttelton (78.8km – 1 hour 29 mins from Akaroa)
Heading into Christchurch, a stop off at Lyttelton is well worth the detour and it’s a great place to grab some dinner if you’re arriving late. Hit by the earthquakes, Lyttelton has now rebuilt and is a thriving village with lots of bars and cafes – leaving Lyttelton and heading to Christchurch, there’s a great road which offers you some fantastic views looking down to the city and the harbour as well as down to the Southern Alps – a great way to end this road trip. It’s a short 12.4km into Christchurch CBD from here which will take you around 20 mins.
3Christchurch to Picton (337 km – 4 hour 19 mins)
Day 3 of your road trip starts in largest city on the South Island – the Garden City. Spend the morning exploring this beautiful city – some of the GO Rentals team highlights are below.
The garden city
Christchurch was named as number 2 on the New York Times top 50 places to visit in 2014 and there are plenty of reasons for that. Following the earthquakes of 2010-11 the city has now emerged as a vibrant city with plenty to see and do. Known as the Garden City, Christchurch has an abundance of parks and gardens including the gorgeous botanical gardens. Add in to this mix the tranquil Avon River and you can see why people rave so much about the city.
Eat | Drink | Shop
Christchurch is a vibrant place for eating and drinking whether you are looking for 5 star opulence or a backstreet café. Re:START is an outdoor retail space opened in late 2011 made from shipping containers. Scattered with a mix of premium brands and home grown products, Re:START is a quirky experience which tells of the cities resilience and ability to come back following the destruction of the earthquakes. Located within Re:START you’ll also find Quake City, a multi-media attraction which tells the story of the earthquakes that hit Christchurch and the Canterbury region.
Check out the several Gap Filler projects that volunteers have created to temporarily “activate” sites left empty by the earthquakes – you’ll be able to see some unique and really creative work that is proof of Christchurch’s charm and resilience.
There is a big day of driving ahead of you to make the ferry across to the North Island so make sure you leave plenty of time as there is plenty to see and do on the way. There is a late ferry that leaves at 10.30pm so you can really make the most of your day. Don’t forget to book your ferry in advance – something we can help with if you like.
Kaikoura – Swim with the dolphins (181 km – 2 hours 21 mins)
A great first stop off on the way is Kaikoura which is a whale watchers delight. Not only that, this is a great opportunity for you to take a dip and swim with the dolphins at the right time of the year – this must be on a few wish lists so let’s get it ticked off!
Cellar View Café and Restaurant
Kaikoura is one of New Zealand’s best locations for seeing marine life including whales and dolphins. It is also the home to the Cellar View Cafe and Restaurant. This place serves up some pretty amazing dishes matched only by the stunning views out to the pacific. It’s easy to let an afternoon drift by, enjoying the delicious food and admiring the endless view. Nice.
Swimming with dolphins
GO Play partner Encounter Kaikoura offers a brilliant opportunity to get in the water in the south Pacific and swim with these amazing animals with tours operating three times a day.
It’s not just dolphins that pass through the waters around Kaikoura though and if you time things right, there is also the chance to see various species of whale as well as seals and birds.
Wine tasting and much more (129km – 1 hour 47mins)
Marlborough is a world famous wine region and it would be rude not to sample some of the local delights on your way through (hopefully it may be a more sociable time of the day!). There are plenty of wineries who will gladly take you through their wide range of vinos from a fruity pinot noir to the flagship wine of the region, Sauvignon Blanc.
There are some famous vineyards down here like Cloudy Bay but we recommend sampling some of the more boutique wineries – a great way to get around is on a bike although be careful if you have a few vinos on the way as you may get a bit wobbly! Wine tour by bike offer bike hire or guided tours which helps as they will transport you back to Blenheim.
If wine is not your thing, there are also lots of microbreweries in the region so this is the perfect place to stock up for the road trip ahead.
From Blenheim, it is a short 28kms to the ferry terminal at Picton which should take you around half an hour.
It might be small but New Zealand’s cool capital is jam-packed with things to do and places to see. This is a great place to end your 4 day adventure so take the time to explore before you have to drop off your GO Rentals car.
Park your car and head for a walk around the waterfront where you’ll find the fascinating Museum of Wellington City and Sea in the old Harbour Board Bond Store, complete with its opulent 1920s board room and a complete teak cabin from an 1879 steamship. It’s not far from New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa – a futuristic multi-storeyed complex that forms one of the largest new museums in the world, with numerous interactive displays.
For the best panoramic views of the city and Port Nicholson all the way across to the Hutt Valley, head up to the lookout on Mt Victoria. The historic cannon on the summit was installed in 1877 and was fired each day as a time signal for many years. If you look down below, in the suburbs, you will spot the New Zealand Cricket Museum, located in the Old Grandstand at the Basin Reserve, not far from the Colonial Cottage Museum on the site of one of the original 1840 New Zealand Company Town acres.
Grab a coffee (Wellington claims to have the best coffee in New Zealand) and visit the cool one-of-akind stores along Manners Mall and Cuba Street. When you’re on that street, notice the cool Bucket Fountain that doesn’t actually work the way it’s supposed to (take a close look at it and you’ll see the water doesn’t actually obey the easy bucket system and sometimes misses the buckets altogether).
Treaty of Waitangi
A visit to Archives New Zealand on 10 Mulgrave Street allows you to see the Treaty of Waitangi (the document that is considered the foundation of the country). You can also take a tour of the Beehive, the country’s parliament, if you’re feeling politically-inclined before taking a stroll along the waterfront, decorated with interesting sculptures and populated by numerous bars (including some decent craft beer spots).
If you have some free time, we suggest a visit to the Weta Workshop, nestled away in the Miramar suburb. Weta is known worldwide for its weird and wonderful creations for film, including creatures, makeup and digital special effects for movies such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia among others.
You can take the 45-minute guided tour through the workshop, which provides unique behind-the scenes glimpses into the work of this award-winning company.
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Before you head to the airport to drop off your car, we suggest you park Wexford Road, on the northeastern side of the airport. On a typical windy Wellington day, you’ll have the chance to see what you escaped from (or maybe what you have to look forward to!). Planes taking off and landing in Wellington often sway a little more than they should – a little scary for passengers on the plane, a bit of fun for you safely watching from the comfort of your rental car on rock solid ground.